A new food hall in downtown National City is buzzing any day of the week. People sip coffee while browsing their laptops in the morning, colleagues chat about the day over lunch, and families break bread at long, wooden tables for dinner.
Since opening late last year, the market at 8th A once gloomy corner has been transformed into a community gathering place. The owners now want to add to that experience with live entertainment and new liquor sales.
Many residents are excited about the addition. Others worry that current challenges, such as finding street parking, will worsen.
To make those business changes, Joel Tubao, who owns and operates the market with his family, sought permission from the city.
He got it last week when the city council unanimously endorsed his proposal with some conditions. The council’s vote came after hearing mixed comments from about three dozen members of the public.
“(The market), overall, has been a real catalyst for 8th street, for our downtown,” said Deputy Mayor Marcus Bush. “This place has really become a public gathering place and a community space.”
Council members approved amendments to the business’s conditional use permit, allowing live performances and extended operating hours at the site, which is in place June 8.th streets and avenues.
The changes mean the food hall can now host live entertainment including bands, karaoke or DJs from 8am to 1am daily and sell craft beer and wine until midnight. Before approval, the business could only serve a single entertainer and sell beer from Novo Brasil — the food hall’s only beer vendor — until 10 a.m. The market could add a bar to its enclosed backyard, allowing alcohol consumption in the front yard. , which is surrounded by a low-level metal fence, and go to sell alcohol.
Some residents say extended operating hours and alcohol sales are “a recipe for trouble,” Bill McCall said.
Others were concerned about potential noise disturbance and allowing drinking in the front yard. Tubao said he’s not trying to turn his establishment into a nightclub or “a place for a bunch of knuckleheads to come in and party and drink a lot.”
“What we’re trying to do is add more value to the community. You can sit there with a nice glass of wine or craft beer and enjoy the community,” he said, adding that he envisions hosting jazz bands on occasion, as well as yoga on the patio and offering kombucha. .
Dominic Hernandez, a chef at one of the food hall’s 12 vendors, said offering a space for an open mic night will enhance the hall as a gathering place for people of various interests and backgrounds.
Council member Ron Morrison made several suggestions, which were approved by the rest of the council. He called for alcohol sales to close at midnight instead of 1 a.m. and asked for beer to be limited to four packs of 16-ounce cans.
The most pressing concern for many residents, business owners and some council members was parking. Since the market opened, street parking in and around A Avenue has been a challenge as food halls and many neighboring establishments do not have parking lots.
David Ramos, who lives on Avenue A near the food hall, said he opposed the permit change because later hours would mean more patrons and fewer parking slots.
“I come home and the first thing I have to do is wait in front of my house to get a parking space and all my neighbors do,” he said.
While the market is not required to offer parking for customers, Tubao said he is talking to Southwestern College about allowing patrons to park in their parking complex at National City Boulevard and 8th.th road
Morrison emphasized the need for more parking or better traffic circulation methods if longer business hours prompt patrons to linger on the premises. He suggested adding metered parking in the area. The city is currently drafting a parking management plan and a pilot program that will add meters to several city streets.
Bush said “parking is definitely going to be a challenge” where density increases, such as the many new small businesses downtown and Parco, a 127-unit mixed-use housing and commercial building located across the street from the food hall.
Jose Rivas, who works at the market and lives on Avenue A, said the recent growth in his neighborhood and the food hall as an anchor has brought life back to what was once a “ghost town.”